Carnival of Aces: Staying in the Closet

Warning: brief mention of LGBTQ+ discrimination and violence. If this affects you, please proceed with caution. 

I want to make another attempt in writing a post for the “Carnival of Aces December – Staying in the Closet”. It’s still going on the premise of the pros and cons for both; with more emphasis on “coming out”. Hopefully, I better explain myself than what I did in the last post.

I want to start with a question: should asexuals (or anyone else) stay in the closet or come out? I think there are pros and cons for both. Before I get into that, I want to talk more in depth about the argument that it’s nobody’s business”.

Fair comment. It ISN’T anyone’s business who you sleep/ not sleep with. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s no surprise that many LGBTQ+ around the world  cop a lot of garbage because of who they are. It’s obvious that, in lots of these cases, it’d be safer for LGBTQ+ people to stay in the closet.

Here’s my point. I don’t believe that “coming out” means telling someone “I have sex with X” or, in the case of asexuals “I don’t have sex”. It goes deeper than that, if you want to come out. When you come out, I believe what you’re saying is “this is who I am. This is who I’m attracted to. Living a “married – with-children-and-house-with-white-picket-fence is most likely not going to happen”. I’m going to extend this point later in the post.

 

For people, especially young people, rejection can be a big factor in determining whether or not someone comes out. For asexuals, this can come as an “accusation” of being gay, which can be, to be quite honest, scary because of the possible implications that may have. To be quite honest, this fear affected me for a long time. To avoid this, I make sure if I do talk about asexuality, I’ve made it a habit to make sure I know that the other person knows what I’m talking about. I’m optimistic that this need for an explanation will become a thing of the past. Most young people I’ve talked to who are in their early 20’s know what I’m talking about when I mention asexuality. It’s often been in the context of this blog.

 

Back to the “married – with – children – with – kids – and -house-with-white-picket-fence”. Coming out as asexual (at least for me), has ended the assumption that I’m going to find a boyfriend and marry and so on and so forth. I know many asexual people do, but, for me personally, when the I knew I was asexual, that image of that life went out the window. So in my opinion, this is the biggest “pro” of coming out; to put to rest the assumption that you’re going to go down the common “married – with – children” path. That’s great for me. Finally, I don’t have to pretend that that’s going to happen to me, when, frankly, it’s likely not to; at least not in the most common way.

Romantic Orientation

I was only thinking about this yesterday, actually. I’m an avid participant in a few Asexuality groups on Facebook. I check out what’s been said almost every time I log on to the site. For some asexuals, stating your romantic orientation isn’t considered. However, I find it interesting those who state that their homo-romantic or bi – romantic. What I’ve noticed is that most people who come out as homo-romantic or bi – romantic have already identified and often come out as gay or bi before they realise they’re asexual. My question to that is, how do you bring up romantic orientation when it doesn’t match what people initially thought? How do you bring up the fact that you’re homo-romantic (or on the spectrum), when you’ve never come out as gay, bi or had no one close to you strongly suspect you are? What if it’s a late discovery, like you just realised your romantic orientation beyond, say, 21? Or 30? What do you do about same – gender partners when coming in contact with family or friends? It was just something floating through my mind. How do you deal when you love your own gender romantically or have a same – gender partner? How do you explain it to friends or family? Do you? What if you have a romantic/ emotional crush on someone of the same gender? Do you keep quiet about that?

Now, I know I’ve left out aromantics and hetero – romantics out of this post. To be quite honest, I don’t know what it’s like to be hetero – romantic, (especially since identifying as asexual) so that’s why I’ve left it out. Nothing against you guys, I promise.

What are your thoughts?

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Complexity in Sexuality and Relationships Part 1: Non – Normative Marriages

I want to do a… well, mini – series at the moment, on non – normative relationships and complexities in feelings and interactions that people may have. I’ll explain.

I found a link to a Facebook group a few days ago about a gay man and a lesbian intersex woman; Linda and Dennis Alfunso, who have been married to each other for over 30 years. They still are.

I’ll be frank, when I first saw this story, I was sceptical. American studies have shown in the past that marriages, where one person is gay and married to another person of the opposite sex, frankly rarely work out (the divorce rate is believed to be 80%).

When my scepticism subsided, my second reaction was that, love and marriage is not always clear cut. This couple do seem to genuinely care about each other. The man is actually the woman’s carer, as Linda has a form of Muscular Dystrophy.

When they first married, they did fall in love, and, because of that, Linda, as she described in the video, thought that she maybe bisexual. That thought was apparently debunked early on.

It really shows what love is, and the different ways that people feel it, regardless of orientation. It shows that sacrifice and commitment are the foundation of a relationship, not sex (although, let’s face it, for most people, it plays a part).

The article does say that they did “fall in love”. I’m not sure about you, but I’m guessing it was sparked by romantic attraction. So maybe we’re talking about people who are bi – romantic, but gay? Anyway, enough with the analysis.

What I’m getting at, is that people love in their own way. Obviously, not all relationships and marriages include sexual chemistry (including for non – aces, because, well aces, there’s very little likelihood that sexual chemistry will play a part of that, but moving on).

What I do admire about this story is the way Dennis and Linda have stuck by each other. I take my hat off to Dennis for looking after Linda during her illness, which apparently started pretty early on in their marriage. That’s something that doesn’t seem to be talked about these days (that’s the sceptic in me again!). Anyway, overall, nice story, I think. Really makes you think about, not just what love and sacrifice is, but also how different people experience it, even in marriages.

No, Mamamia, Sam Frost Doesn’t “Need” to Have Sex On The Bachelorette

I read this post about former Bachelor (Australia) contestant and current “Bachelorette” Sam Frost. The columnist wrote some… ahem… delicate advice:

Two words. F*** ’em.

Just so you know, the censor was my own. Now, what Jessie Mills is going on about is the importance of chemistry and making sure it’s there before tying the knot. But seriously, as a feminist site, I hate the way that Mills has essentially pushed her views so brashly. I get that (for most people) chemistry is an important part of a relationship for most people, but it’s not Mills’ place, or anyone else to demand that Frost have sex with the men that she meets on the show. Leave that up to her and her dates/ future husband/ husband, etc.

 

I have read arguments that sex before marriage can be beneficial because you know whether you both connect together on that level. There’s no judgement here. This isn’t about whether Sam Frost has or doesn’t have sex. I couldn’t care less. What I’m saying is that I don’t think it’s up to anyone else to say whether someone should or shouldn’t (unless for legal reasons, obviously).

Feminism is all about choice, right? Well, to all the feminists out there, give people the right NOT to have sex as well as permission of those to have it if they want it. But please, don’t tell someone they “need” to have sex.

Sex – Positivity and Inclusiveness In the Church

I follow the blog Church and Sex and have read a number of posts, especially from Patheos about the backlash against the purity movement, particularly in the US. I don’t want to get into an argument about what the morality of it all is, I can already imagine what people are going to say. I just want to talk about how sex – positivity could possibly affect both asexuals and people with conservative views on sex and sexuality.

First thing, most people are, so called “sexual beings”. I say “most people” because, of course, some people are asexual. But then again, maybe it depends on one’s definition. I believe that each person should be free to at least acknowledge the fact that they are (or aren’t) sexual. I don’t think people can kid themselves too long about that stuff. However, I don’t think acknowledging your sexuality is the same as being sexually active.

So, some people are starting to believe that sex doesn’t need to be saved until marriage. I’m just pointing out that some people think that. Again, I’m not here to debate the morality of it. Just, people think that… including some Christians, with some look at the original biblical transcripts (Greek mainly – New Testament).

I’ve written before the damage of the ethos that (at least what I think) drives the far – Right American Christian culture. However, I also warn the Progressive/ Left not to go too far the other way, as in to demonise people with conservative viewpoints and those who don’t want sex (whether they are asexual or not). I’m glad to say that I’ve seen posts on the Internet about Christianity and asexuality that are quite affirming, and to those people, I give credit. I just hope, outside the Internet, the Church, liberal or conservative, is accomodating to those who want to wait until marriage, people who have no desire for sex period (e.g. asexual people), and those who are genuinely believe they are called to celibacy.

That includes being ACCOMMODATING to these different types of people. That means not having a “married with children”, “newly married”, etc groups and leaving singles and celibates out of the church culture. It means not putting unreasonable pressure on singles to couple – up and making them feel like they’re a failure (I thnk that’s slowly decreasing). It means, as much as possible, to respectfully discuss conflicting viewpoints… if that’s possible (I say this because I tend to shy away from such debates).

That’s what I think about the future of the church and the discussion of sex. It’ll continue evolving, I’m sure. Hopefully not into a fight, though.

Discrimination Against Asexuals

Trigger Warning: This post speaks about sexual violence. If this is triggering for you, feel free to move on from this post. Get any professional help you may need.

I’m up to the part in the book “The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality”. I’m going to change tactic though and say what I think about the whole issue from what I’ve read in the book (the chapter’s too long to do a brief post, I think).

We hear about homophobia all the time. It’s come to a point, where in society, it’s generally frowned upon. Someone can even be sacked or prosecuted for making an overtly homophobic comment, or at the very least, be under public pressure to apologise (especially if it’s caught by the media). However, I can’t help but think the same standards are being held against asexual people. It’s like, in some cases they’re fair game. Now, before anyone jumps on me, I’m very aware of the oppression that LGBT people face. I’ve talked before about it on this blog. But asexual discrimination I feel is just as important, but little known. Some areas of discrimination faced by asexuals include:

  • Not having marriage legally recognised
  • Alienation and disfavour within religious communities
  • Refusal to be able to adopt
  • “Corrective” rape
  • Discrimination from the mental health professionals
  • Self – hatred/ internalised discrimination

Having a marriage annulled because of a lack of sex

By what I’ve read, it sounds like marriages, at least in the US can be deemed iligitimate if it’s known that the couple aren’t having satisfactory sex and a partner complains about it. And this is a problem for the government because? Why not get them to seek professional help (no, not just to ‘fix’ the asexual) to get the couple to work out their relationship and work on a compromise that they’re both happy with? If such an arrangement doesn’t work out, then maybe, the relationship wans’t meant ot be. But once a marriage is in place, the government should be play no role policing how such a marriage should opperate (unless, of course crime is going on). Maybe I’m mistaken. But it just seems a bit off to me.

Alienation and disfavour within religious communities

Some religious communities are very heteronormative, especially if they have a very strict traditional view of gender. She talks about how many asexuals feel demonised for their orintation, or like in mainstream society, made to feel like there’s something wrong with them. I just want to interject a view from what I’ve personally viewed.

In some Christian circles, even Evangelical circles, there is a move away from enforcing marriage and demonising people, simply for being single. They even quote Paul from the bible to accomodate their approval. However, I’ve often wondered whether this comes out of a form of political correctness; like people feel like they HAVE TO accommodate singles in a bid to not be demonised from the outside. Then again, they could just be making the decision to be more accommodating. But this doesn’t cover people in non – sexual, but romantic relationships.

Sex is expected to be a given in marriage in a Christian context, especially if they hone on the fact that they strongly believe that sex should be reserved for marriage. I actually think they go too far sometimes. I’ve even read in a book wher the Evangelical Christian author practically blamed infidelity on the partner that withold sex. Now, to do it out of spite, I can understand that’s not good. But to make a blanket vilification against a partner that can’t have sex or are not comfortable with it isn’t right. I’m inclined to agree with Decker when she condemned such an attitude as being abusive.

Refusal to be able to adopt

Apparently, in the US, there have been incidences where a couple have been refused adoption due to couples (or at least one person) being asexual. I think the idea behind it is that they should be able to reproduce naturally? Anyway, I think it’s ridiculous. Again, invasion of privacy. And it needs to be said, why? Why does a couple’s sexual practices (so long as they are legal and consensual), have any bearing on whether they should be able to adopt or look after a child? I don’t get it. Mind your own business, for heaven’s sake! If a couple is having troubles, let THEM sort it out and determine what action should be taken NOT government agencies!

“Corrective” rape

Decker says in the book, as well as her video on discrimination, that asexual women, in particular, can be vulnerable to sexual assault. The perpetrator can be either a stranger or even a partner/ spouse. It goes on the stupid theory that an egotistical maniac can “turn” a woman because of his own grandiosity (at least for the stranger part), which is ridiculous! In intimate partnerships, an asexual partner can feel bullied into having sex with their partner. When this happens, and the partner who’s been (let’s be honest here), raped opens up, according to Decker, people are likely to be sympathetic to the perpetrator rather than the victim.

NEWSFLASH: spousal rape is now illegal in most Western countries, including Australia in the mid 1970’s. So there should be NO EXCUSE. I’ll say it again, if a couple feels like they need help in regarding sexual issues, they should feel free to look for it, but NOT for the sole purpose of humiliating one of the partners!

Discrimination from mental health professionals

The latest edition of the DIagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), changed the definitions of Hyposexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) and Sexual Arousal Disorder (SAD), deliberately differentiating them (particularly HSDD) between the disorder as opposed to asexuality, which is the orientation. In 2010, asexual advocates, including founder of AVEN David Jay demanded that these modifications be made. Unfortunately, apparently, not all health professionals have caught on. Asexuailty can be fixated on as a “problem” in a person’s lives, regardless on whether the client focuses on it or not. To me, this is unethical, frankly. Mental health professionals are not there to plant ideas into client’s heads! They’re there to HELP  the client work through their issues (without intruding), so they can live life that they want (I studied Community Services for two years, which included modules on couselling and client/ professional communication). From what I’ve read, if a licensed professional did the same thing to someone who was gay, they’d be deregistered, or at the very least, disciplined by their medical/ psychological board. Why aren’t asexuals given the same respect? Fortunately, there are therapists/ counsellors out there who recognise asexuality as an orientation and are likely to treat the asexual client respectfully. Decker hinted that it might be best to seek a counsellor who has experience in LGBT counselling.

Self – hatred/ internalised discrimination

This part made me cry, because I get it. It is something that people can go through, and it can be quite psychologically harmful. It’s very easy to do, hard to get over. Fortunately, I can honestly say that I’m coming to a place where I’m accepting who I am. I’m not completely there yet, but better than what I have been in the past.

The pain can be exacerbated if the person feels like they should isolate themselves in a bid not be rejected from others. By “isolation”, I’m not just talking about it in a physical sense. I’m talking aboutbeing in a group, but feeling like you can’t (or shouldn’t) open up about your own experiences in fear of being rejected if the topic of relationships, marriage pop up. Somtimes, the second one is more painful. Sometimes, when an asexual opens up, I won’t lie, it can backfire. However, somtimes, coming out can be liberating as well.

The chapter as a whole was quite disheartening. It really opened my eyes to how a lot of work needs to be done to eradicate sexual orientation – based discrimination. I’m quietly hopeful. With more visibiility, more advocacy, hopefully we’ll come to a point where discrimination against asexuals will become more frowned upon.

Being Able To Pass As Straight

There’s this idea in I’ve noticed on certain blogs about being able to ‘pass’ as being straight. That is, when looking at someone, you don’t automatically come across as not cisgender or straight. Even though I’ve never been in a relationship, for years (and for some people, probably even now), most people have classed me as straight. Some bloggers who’ve talked about this have pointed out some privileges that come with that, but I want to focus for a moment on why it can become problematic.

The biggest problem for me is my reluctance to set the record straight (no pun intended), when the topic comes up. When I first realised I was asexual, for example, I was having dinner with two friends and Tge topic of dating and marriage came up. Whilst I did participate in the discussion and went along with it, I felt a bit out of place. And there’s been other times when the conversation has come up and I just went along with it again. In fact, the only times I have mentioned asexuality, the conversation was started by me, often out of the blue.

How do you bring up asexuality if your among a group of friends in those conversations? Is there anyone who does bring if up there and the or do you just go along with it like I usually do?

The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to AsexualityPart 2 Ctd

I’m back to continue my review on ‘The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” Part 2’ by Julie Sondra Decker. Sorry for the delay in writing this.  So, the next topic that Decker was relationships, particularly intimate partnerships.

Asexual people, for the most part, want to experience intimacy on some level and desire some sort of committed relationship, romantic or otherwise (in this section of the book, her main focus seems to be romantic relationships).

There is a common misconception that romantic asexual people will automatically go for people who are asexual. However, it’s usually not so clear – cut for a number of reasons, as Decker strongly argues. Firstly, the lack of visibility of asexuality in society could mean that an asexual person could enter a sexual relationship or even marriage before realising that they are, in fact, asexual. I’ve read about this many times on Facebook. Even people who may be in their 50’s and have been married for more than ten years may have just realised with certainty that they are asexual.

Another reason why asexual people may fall for a non – asexual is because of their social group may not have any self – identified asexuals, hence, if they fall for someone in that group, they’re highly unlikely to be asexual. Talking about asexuality and attraction- just because two people are asexual, doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be emotionally attracted to each other. Attraction, regardless of orientation, rarely works out that simply.  A romantic asexual could fall for someone who isn’t asexual. It’s that old adage, I guess: you can’t choose who you fall in love with. That would go for asexual people as well.

Meet ups of asexual people do happen around the world, but they are rare and have to be deliberately planned in order for them to happen. I’ve never personally been part of one, but I have seen them talked about on Facebook sometimes. They mainly seem to happen in the US. I don’t know how many happen in Australia, or where (anyone from Australia who has been to a meetup, feel free to comment). Plus, there are no “meetup” clubs or such specifically for asexuals like, for example the gay community.

Another problem with the assumption that romantic asexual people would automatically fall for  other romantic asexuals, is the fact that asexual visibility is still at it’s infancy. There are people who may not know that they are asexual or know it’s even a thing. There is growing awareness, yes (I’ve wrote about media coverage on asexuality in the past on this blog), but it’s still limited. Also, there is a lack of awareness and acceptance in education and medical fields as a valid orientation (I’ll talk about this at a later date).

Like my above argument about attraction, it’s pretty obvious that not all romantic asexual people are going to automatically be attracted to each other. And not all asexual/ asexual relationships ideal. They can face (at least some) of the same problems that any other relationship has.

 

Next, she talked about the issue of compromise. She argued that all relationships require a level of compromise, and, in the context of sexual/ asexual relationships, that includes a certain compromise (on both sides), when it comes to sex. Contrary to poular belief, the “compromise” isn’t always on the asexual person to participate in sexual activity (I would argue that sometimes that may be deemed close to impossible in some cases, particularly if they’re sex – repulsed or sex – averse – however, for many sexual/ asexual relationships, it’s a possible compromise). Other possible compromises that can be made in an asexual/ sexual relationship that Decker listed are:

  • The sexual partner agreeing to remain celibate and take their own needs in their own hands (that was a pun)
  • Both partners agree to have sex either regularly or irregularly
  • Open relationship/ marriage
  • Polyamory
  • Other forms of physical intimacy (kissing, cuddling, etc)

In an imperfect world, sometimes, such compromises don’t work out and the relationship/ marriage ends up deteriorating and eventually ending. In these circumstances, asexual partners/ spouses are sometimes automatically viewed to be at fault for the relationship breaking down. But, as she argued, some relationships just aren’t meant to work out, and she emphasised that it was important to admit and be OK with that, however, painful it is. Everyone should be able to be honest with themselves (and I’d say regardless of the status of the relationship or gender and orientation of the partners), about whether the needs are being met in that relationship and whether conflict is reconcilable.

She talked briefly about relationship counselling. This is where prejudice and discrimination against asexual people can be come evident. According to Decker, there are therapists who don’t acknowledge asexuality as an orientation, and as such, may solely focus on the asexual as the “problem”. However, Decker didn’t discourage relationship/ marriage therapy. And there are asexual – friendly therapists as well (I mentioned one: http://https://asexualityinasexualworld.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/mama-mia-another-article-on-asexuality/

Sometimes, in an asexual/ sexual relationship, self – esteem issues and fears need to be addressed. I’ve talked before about how hard it can be to admit that you’re asexual and be OK with it (I’ll talk about it more in the future, too). This can be detrimental on the asexual person psychologically and as a result, the asexual person may stay in unhealthy relationships. This is why asexual visibility and acceptance is so important! It’s why I continue this blog, despite my doubts in the past. Nobody should have to feel like they don’t deserve to be accepted and loved! I feel so strongly about this! Self – hatred/ low self – esteem, especially when seemingly enforced by general society is so damaging it’s not funny! I’ve been there. Fortunately for me, it hadn’t got to a stage where it was both physcially or psychologically destructive, but even what I’ve experienced with myself, I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. And, I’ve got to say, hating yourself, for fearing judgement from others about your sexuality is I think one of the most destructive things that can affect one’s well – being. (Please note: I get that there are other factors that often contribute the damage of someone’s personal state. It’s just from MY OWN personal experiences, it’s been a major thing for me).

In the context of married relationships, many asexuals feel obligated to be sexual with their spouse, regardless of their personal feelings about it. Now I agree with negotiation and compromise, but just simply saying that the asexual person should ignore their own feelings isn’t right. In fact, Decker condemns such attitudes as downright abusive. I tend to agree. Each couple needs to and should be able to work out how to carry out their relationship, without one partner (e.g. the asexual partner in this case I’m talking about), feeling like their own feelings and opinions don’t matter.

Just a note: As I’ve been reading through this book, I’m surprised and, frankly, quite horrified about how asexual people are often mistreated, discriminated against and/ or dehumanised. I don’t know if this occured to anybody, but yes we asexuals are HUMAN! We have feelings, desires. We feel the way we feel and for the most part, we can’t help it. Telling us to change our orientatoin is just as futile (and probably just as damaging), as telling a gay person to go through “conversion” therapy (which has largely collapsed in the West, particularly the US).

Many asexual people are married and want children. For this reason, some women may at least tolerate sex in order to conceive a child. Also, like I said above, some people are already married before knowing what asexuality is, or the fact that it’s an orientation.

As pointed above, some asexuals are involved in non – monogamy with a sexual partner. Some people, including asexuals, actually prefer non – monogamy relationship styles, such as open relationships or polyamory. I think it’s fair to say that it wouldn’t be everyone’s taste, but it may be an option for some.

 

So, here that concludes Part 2 about relationships (there’s much more to come, so bear with me). Next time, I’ll be writing about the asexual links (or lack of) to the LGBT community and more on discrimination and how it affects the asexual community. Stay tuned.